Record 43-39, 3rd in Atlantic Division, 6th in Eastern Conference.
Lost 3-2, to Cleveland Cavaliers in Eastern Conference’s First Round.
1992-93 NBA season is my favourite even though my Spurs got eliminated in the second-round of the Western Conference Play-offs by the greatest Phoenix Suns I have ever seen. In 1992-93 the New Jersey Nets, a team that was considered, and was, one of the weakest teams of the league, had finally gathered the right pieces and was in a position to compete with the best of them. The whole process of creating a play-offs team started two seasons ago (1990-91). New Jersey had the worst record in 1989-90 (17-65) and was lucky to have the first overall draft pick in 1990 NBA Draft. Derrick Coleman was the player the Nets chose at number 1; a power forward from Syracuse whose game was compared to that of the best power forwards in the NBA.
It was that season (1990-91) and in particular on 23 January 1991 that the Nets took part in a three-team trade deal (Nets, Nuggets, Blazers) and acquired one of the best, if not the best, European players ever from the Portland Trail Blazers; the Croatian shooting guard Drazen Petrovic. ‘Petro’ had not made a great start in his NBA career at Portland, where he didn’t have much playing time and he had a limited role behind the great Blazers backcourt, comprised of Terry Porter and Clyde Drexler. Petrovic came from the bench in 1990-91 for the Nets, but he had an immediate impact with 12.6ppg. In 1991-92 he started all 82 regular-season games, averaging 20.6ppg., 3.1rpg., and 3.1apg.
In 1991-92 Nets made two more decisive moves; drafted point guard Kenny Anderson at no.2 overall in 1991 NBA Draft and signed the former Piston’s and Dream Team’s coach Chuck Daly at the end of the season. In 1991-92 the Nets did well and made their first play-offs appearance since 1986, to lose to the Cleveland Cavaliers in the first round 3-1. The last move that changed the team’s destiny was the trade of Mookie Blaylock, the team’s starting point guard, to Atlanta on 3 November 1992 that gave the opportunity to the team’s uprising star, Anderson, to start. So, at the beginning of 1992-93 season the Nets’ starting line-up looked pretty solid: PG. Kenny Anderson, SG. Drazen Petrovic, SF. Chris Morris, PF. Derrick Coleman, C. Sam Bowie. The squad also had great veterans such as the 80s superstar Bernard King, the starting PG of the 1983 76ers championship team Maurice Cheeks and the 1989 NBA champion with the Pistons Rick Mahorn. But most of all, the team had in Chuck Daly one of the best coaches in NBA history.
New Jersey and Drazen Petrovic started the season strong; they finished December with a 16-12 record and he was NBA’s player of the week for the first-week of December averaging 27.7ppg., 4.0rpg., and 2.7apg. I remember that I didn’t like Petrovic because I thought of him as an arrogant person and I could not forget the way he played, and celebrated, in Yugoslavia’s victory over my country (Greece) in the 1989 Eurobasket’s Final in Zagreb. I, now,consider myself lucky to have seen that great player and that game live even though Yugoslavia destroyed Greece at that game and took revenge, as we had beaten them in 1987 Eurobasket’s semi-final in Athens, when Greece won the gold. I will also never forget watching two of the best European players going at each other; Greece’s Nikos Galis and Yugoslavia’s Drazen Petrovic. These two would have been great playing in the same team and this was the plan of Panathinaikos’ president in 1993, before Drazen’s death. Petrovic had said about that possibility before his death:
United Yugoslavia was an unbelievable team and I will never stop fantasising about a game of Dream Team against Yugoslavia; if Croatia was able to provide some resistance what a united Yugoslavian team would have done? Petrovic’s performance against MJ and the Dream Team in the Olympics was also a joy to watch. In fact there was a great rivalry between these two, one that was being enjoyed by both, and the Bulls-Nets games had become a battle of these two great players representing two different basketball worlds.
Michael Jordan said about ‘Petro’ after receiving the ‘Drazen Petrovic Trophy’ in Paris’ McDonalds tournament:
“It was a thrill to play against Drazen. Every time we competed, he competed with an aggressive attitude. He wasn’t nervous. He came at me as hard as I came at him. So, we’ve had some great battles in the past and unfortunately, they were short battles. It’s a great pleasure to receive an award in his honour. For the short time he played professional basketball in the US, he was one of the pioneers of European players coming over and being successful in the States. Other players have tried to follow his leadership. We have a guy on our team who worshipped Drazen and that’s Boris Gorenc. It’s a great honour to win the trophy.”
Drazen finished 12th in NBA in scoring per game in 1992-93, with 22.3. He scored 44 points, his personal best in his NBA career, in a game against the Rockets in 24 January 1993. After taking the opportunity to talk a little bit about Drazen as I could not include him in my top-ten lists (he played only 4 seasons during the 90s), let’s get back now to 1992-93 New Jersey Nets. Their record before the all-star game was 30-21 and they seemed as a team that would definitely be in the play-offs; in fact they were trying for home-court advantage in the first-round. But on 28 February 1993 in a game against the rivals Knicks, where the Nets won by 26 points, John Starks injured Kenny Anderson with a flagrant foul, which caused him to miss the rest of the season. Anderson had started all of the team’s 55 games by that point and was averaging 16.9ppg., 8.2apg. (9th in the league), and 4.1rpg.
Anderson’s absence was devastating for the Nets and after a month (March) were they coped well, 10-5 record, they had a very bad month in April with a 2-10 record, to finish sixth in the Eastern Conference with 43-39. Derrick Coleman had a great season as well for the Nets, with 20.7ppg. and 11.2rpg (11th in the league). Sam Bowie, the former Kentucky star that was selected in no.2 overall by Portland, above Michael Jordan, in 1984 NBA Draft, had another healthy and decent season for the Nets, while Chris Morris emerged in the small forward position as Bernard King most of the time injured and was playing his last NBA season.
In 1993 Nets were making their second consecutive play-offs appearance and they were going to face the team that eliminated them last year (3-1) in the first round; the sixth seeded Cleveland Cavaliers of the all-stars Brad Daugherty, Mark Price and Larry Nance. The series was more competitive than one would have thought. The Nets played without their starting point guard Anderson, however they were able to force a game 5 after tying the series in a big win, 96-79, in New Jersey in game 4. The most competitive game was game 2 of the series, in Cleveland, when New Jersey behind 27 points and 14 rebounds by Coleman as well as 21 points by Petrovic, won 101-99 and tie the series 1-1.
In Game 5 of the series Cleveland was able to win 99-89, behind a great performance by Daugherty (24p., 20r. and 8a.) that overshadowed Coleman’s big game (33p. and 16r.). This way Cleveland won the series 3-2 and qualified for the second round. At that point nobody knew that this was also going to be Drazen’s last game as in 7 June 1993 Petrovic died in a traffic accident in Germany. Petrovic was a unique talent that will never be forgotten, especially his great rivalries against the world’s best scorers; those that have watched Petrovic against the Brazilian super-scorer Oscar Schmidt in 1989’s European Cup-Winners Cup know exactly what I am talking about (Petrovic 62p. – Oscar 44p.).
I have the impression that if Kenny Anderson had remained healthy throughout the whole of 1992-93 season, the Nets would have finished with a much better record, probably top-4 in the East, and would have had better chances of proceeding to the second round. In addition, Drazen’s death left them with a huge gap in their starting line-up, one that couldn’t be covered. However, New Jersey was able to finish with an improved record 45-37 in 1993-94 season, behind the all-star performances of Kenny Anderson (18.8ppg., 9.6apg. and 1.9spg.) and Derrick Coleman (20.2ppg., 11.3rpg. and 1.8bpg.), to lose 3-1 in the hands of the rival New York in the first round of 1994 play-offs. We can only imagine what this team would have been able to do if Drazen had not died in the summer of 1993.
New Jersey Nets 1992-93